Transistor is one atom thick

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Researchers from Manchester University’s School of Physics and Astronomy say they have used the world’s thinnest material to create the world’s smallest transistor. They believe this could spark the development of a new type of super fast computer chip.

Professor Andre Geim and Dr Kostya Novoselov have created transistors that are one atom thick and less than 50 atoms wide and believe this will allow electronics devices to continue to shrink when the current silicon based technology ‘runs out of steam’. Two years ago, Prof Geim and his colleagues discovered a new class of materials that can be viewed as individual atomic planes pulled out of bulk crystals. These one atom thick materials include graphene – a form of carbon. Graphene based transistor have been developed previously, but have been described as very ‘leaky’. But the Manchester team has found an way around the problem which may make graphene based transistors suitable for use in the future. The researchers have shown that graphene remains highly stable and conductive, even when it is cut into strips only a few nanometres wide – unlike other materials, which become unstable. The research suggests that future electronic circuits may be carved out of a single graphene sheet. Such circuits would include the central element or ‘quantum dot’, semitransparent barriers to control movements of individual electrons, interconnects and logic gates – all made from graphene. Already, Prof Geim’s team has proved this idea by making a number of single electron transistor devices that work under ambient conditions and show a high quality transistor action.